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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

Chapter Three
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH

Su Tungpo was a child of between eight and ten years, his
father went to the capital to take his chance at the imperial
examinations. After his Jailure, he travelled abroad as far as the modern
Kiangse Province, and the mother took over the personal instruction of
the child at home. There is an incident recorded both in the official
biography oŁ the poet in the Sung History and in the long tomb inscrip-
tion written by the poet's brother. The mother was teaching the young
son a chapter in Later Han History. As a result of terrible misrule the

> government had fallen into the hands of eunuchs; and the scholars
rebelled against the rule of the intermediate sex. Corruption and graft
and extortion, and arbitrary arrests, were the order of the day, for the
local magistrates were all underlings and proteges of the eunuchs.
Courting death for themselves, the good scholars time and again
impeached the ruling clique. Repeated waves of reform and protest
followed repeated inquisitions. The scholars were subjected to bodily
torture, persecuted, and murdered by imperial decree.

Among this group of upright scholars was a fearless young man by
the name of Fan Pang, and it was his life that the mother and son

fwere reading. The story was that after repeated persecutions and
escapes, the end came. The imperial courier bearing the message that
sentenced Fan Pang to death had arrived. As bearer of the unhappy
news, the good courier shut himself up in the yamen and wept. The
magistrate himself was a good man, too, and had high respect for the
scholar. He offered to lay down the magistrate's seal and, instead of
carrying out the arrest, flee with him, but Fan Pang refused, saying
that it would involve his old mother and condemn her to the life *oŁ
a fugitive from justice. Confiding the care of his mother to his younger
brother, he went to say farewell to her. In this decision not to escape
the mother concurred, and she said to him: "I had hoped for you a
long life and a good name, but since you cannot have both, I prefer

i that you have a good name." So they parted, and in going, Fan Pang
said to his young son: "If I should advise you to do wrong, I know
that this would not be right, but if I should advise you to do right,
you see I have done no wrong."                                                        '

The young Su Tungpo looked up to his mother and asked her:
"Mother, if I grow up to be a Fan Pang, will you permit it?" And his
mother replied: "If you can be a Fan Pang, can! not be Fan Pang's
mother?"

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